Are you looking forward to a new comic book but it’s impossible for you to wait for its release before you know what we thought about it? That’s why there’s DoomRocket’s Advanced Reviews — now we assess books you can’t even buy yet. This week: ‘Stellar’ #1, out June 13 from Skybound Entertainment, an Image Comics imprint.

Stellar #1

Cover to ‘Stellar’ #1. Art by Bret Blevins/Image Comics

By Jami Jones. Skybound Entertainment has stepped up their presence in the market recently, telling stories in genres previously left unexplored. Titles like Horizon and Oblivion Song colored Skybound’s traditional survival and mystery trappings with sci-fi, but Stellar is a book that takes a more traditional approach. In effect, Stellar gives Skybound an opportunity to reach further into science fiction, a genre the Image Comics imprint has otherwise neglected.

Stellar is the second book spinning from Robert Kirkman’s takeover of the Top Cow Pilot Season project in 2009. (Demonic, written by Christopher Sebela with art by Niko Walter, was the first). Kirkman’s promise, to publish a “cool science fiction space action, with all kinds of monsters and spaceships and stuff,” has fallen to writer Joseph Keatinge and artist Bret Blevins to fulfill. With Stellar, Keatinge has a chance to delve a little deeper into ideas about technology and humanity, concepts that he explores in another of Skybound’s titles, Evolution.

Stellar, our titular protagonist, is a bounty hunter with a mysterious past. An intergalactic war has shackled her gig in red tape and instead of a monetary reward for her latest assignment she instead gains a criminal humanoid anchor. Her unexpected companion stirs up things that trigger memories for Stellar, and their journey to a monument from Stellar’s murky history offers an explanation of sorts for some of the guilt that obviously haunts her. Past becomes present, the fog of memory begins to lift, and Stellar is forced to confront her genesis — and purpose.

Keatinge’s strength in incorporating technology into fiction makes him a solid choice to bring Kirman’s character to life: His work on Tech Jacket was a great example of how he provides functional alien tech in science fiction; in Evolution he explores human innovation through a horror lens; and in Ringside he focuses on the human experience (and the toll) behind sports as entertainment. Popgun, the Eisner and Harvey award winning anthology edited by Keatinge, is an excellent example of his ability to work with a wide variety of genres and creators. He blends these experiences in order to properly define a character created by another writer.

Stellar #1

Interior page from ‘Stellar’ #1. Art by Bret Blevins and Rus Wooton/Image Comics

Blevins creates an appropriately unnerving alien landscape for Stellar to inhabit. A skyscraping weapon is bent and broken under the weight of a massive corpse impaled upon it. Broken robots and spaceships scatter a planet under a star-filled sky. The lack of a direct lighting source gives the world an eerie blue hue. Blevins’ cyan-centric coloring is one we’ve seen employed for storytelling effect before — James Cameron utilized it in both The Abyss and Titanic, among others — but it provides a necessary weight to Stellar. It makes us aware that anything is possible beyond what is seen in our coolly-lit field of vision.

The chill evoked by the book’s blue hues is contrasted boldly by the warmness of fire-like tones used to denote the war of the past. Orange, red, and yellow are used as a visual cue that time has changed and Stellar is meditating on the past. The coloring choices aid the storytelling by clearly defining the flashbacks from the present, necessary because at times the transition from present to past is abrupt. While well executed and adeptly used, Blevin’s use of color walks the line between artistic choice and narrative necessity.

Stellar’s day began with a routine bounty but ended on a journey of unwanted self-discovery. Did contemplating her past bring it to her, or was she just having a no-good very bad day? Keatinge and Blevins have some work ahead of them to define this mysterious bounty hunter and make her their own. With content as promising as this, we’ll keep our eyes pointed to the stars.

Image Comics/$3.99

Written by Joseph Keatinge.

Pencils by Bret Blevins.

Letters by Rus Wooton.

7 out of 10

‘Stellar’ #1 hits stores June 13.

Check out this four-page preview of ‘Stellar’ #1, courtesy of Image Comics!

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